Drawing in the Sand (OR 13 Lessons from Writing Haikus)

Today, we discuss haikus.

Just five syllables, 

Then,  followed by seven more

And another five. 
That is the bare bone structure and an attempt at poetic humor. I am not very good. 


I am not very good yet. But, the important thing is that I try. 

  1. It is more important to try than to succeed. 

I have been a bad poet for decades. I know this because I haven’t written a lick of poetry since I was a wee lass. It has been a while. 

You are not a bad poet for writing, you are a bad poet if you simply don’t. And that is hard to define, but I think many of us know it when we hit it. 

ANECDOTE: I had a teacher tell me an art story. Some painter…Rembrandt? He never let anyone watch him paint til his friend begged him. He brought him out and he stared at apples for six hours. After six hours of boredom, his friend asked,  “When will you paint apples?” He responded, “Fuck you, I am painting”

-Actual Quote from Acting Teacher

So there is a level of gray we must sift through as artists. If part of your process is do nothing, then that is your process. But the point is to do it is to art. 

I started doing again.  I got back into it. But, I had no idea where to begin. See, writing was always for the English majors, the professors, the academics. I had no place in it. 

And then, I challenged myself to get into it and threw myself in head first. Only problem was I didn’t know what or how to write. So I wrote like a child: long absurd angst ridden diatribes about my clear and present depression. I look at them and cringe, but they were the best I could do. 

It felt totally hopeless. 

And then I remembered haiku. Five. Seven. Five syllable structure. No rhyme necessary, no metre, just syllable counting. I COULD DO THAT! 

Which brings me to my next point:

2. Tackle the toughest thing you can handle and then back off. 

You don’t need to break your pen, burn your books, or tear your hair, but challenge is where the art is, so find that and make it sing. 

After writing ten of these I started discovering theme. 

After one hundred I started discovering rhyme. 

Now, I am exploring stress and emphasis. Some rhymes rhyme better depending on the stress or intonation and can even be forced depending on how hard you lean on a syllable. 

I am still new and very much learning, but everything I know about poetry stems from my own experience. No amount of beating my head against a desk in English 400 could have prepared me for actually writing my own poetry. 

3. You can only ever really learn anything by doing. 

4. You’re going to suck for a long time. 

5. Like a really long time. 

6. But if you stick with it, you will be able to look back and see your progress. 

7. If you quit before the suck process is over, you deny the world a poet. 

8. You are a poet. 

9. No one can say you are not. 

10. You can always come back. 

You know those stories where people quit and never come back? They are lies. 

Nobody quits for real. Everyone is a come back story waiting to happen. I know. I am one. 

Fight for your art. Because no one else will. 

11. No one else will fight for your art. 

That is hard to write, but it is also okay. No one else will, but also:

12. No one else can fight for your art. 

They can support you and if you get that, then hold onto it. But it is so rare, I wouldn’t count on it. 

That seems bleak to end on. 

13. Sometimes art is bleak and that is okay. 


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